Suppandi, Shambhu, and Tantri the Mantri: Tinkle Comics' Collaboration Journey
Suppandi, Shambhu, and Tantri the Mantri: Tinkle Comics' Collaboration Journey

First published in 1980, Tinkle Comics has remained a stalwart in the world of comics, solidifying its status as a beloved legacy brand. With cherished characters like Suppandi, Shambhu, and Tantri the Mantri, Tinkle Comics, under the umbrella of Amar Chitra Katha, has embarked on innovative merchandising and licensing ventures, captivating audiences both young and old.

From partnerships with Tata Mutual Fund featuring Suppandi to collaborations with The Souled Store for trendy apparel collections, Tinkle Comics has witnessed a significant surge in the sales of its printed books, marking an impressive 30-40 percent year-on-year growth.

Recently, Tinkle and Zebu Animation studios joined hands to bring its two popular toons Suppandi and Wingstar to life in their animated avatars. ACK’s other noteworthy collaborations include Google India’s ‘Be Internet Awesome’ program and collaborations with popular IPs such as Kaun Banega Crorepati, Kidzania, and Sony Super Dancer.

While the timeless appeal of characters like Suppandi, Shambu, and Tantri the Mantri endures, newer additions to the Tinkle universe such as Wingstar, Defective Detectives, Yog Yoddhas, and Super Weirdos resonate particularly well with younger audiences, further cementing Tinkle Comics' position as a cultural mainstay.

Taking Indian Comics to the World

Venturing beyond the realms of print, ACK has ventured into the cinematic sphere, with actor Rana Dagubatti set to star in a film adaptation based on the mythological saga of Hiranyakashyap, a demon king from ACK’s illustrious comic repertoire. Spearheaded by Spirit Media and helmed by director Trivikram, this cinematic endeavor marks a significant leap for ACK into broader media platforms.

Elaborating on the strategy behind this collaboration, Preeti Vyas, President, and CEO of Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), told, “Rana Dagubatti is one of the promoters of our company. We are always thrilled when he takes on any of our IPs or stories for film adaptation. As a brand, our goal is to be a transmedia player, taking our stories across platforms. Our strategy is simple - whichever format a consumer wishes to imbibe a story from Amar Chitra Katha or Tinkle, it is our job to make it available to them in that format. Be it books (print and digital), audio, animation, live action, board games, music, AR, VR - we want to grow our content in the universe of formats for content consumption.”

Notably, ACK graced the prestigious San Diego Comic Con, underscoring its global appeal. Reflecting on this momentous occasion, Vyas remarked, “San Diego Comic-Con was an unforgettable experience. We received an overwhelming response from the Indian diaspora, many of whom were moved to tears to see their beloved Amar Chitra Katha stand proudly next to brands like Marvel and DC comics. But what was truly special for us was to introduce Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle to non-Indian audiences.”

Vyas further said, “Every comic we sold at San Diego made us deeply happy as we know that a part of our culture had traveled into the home of a global citizen. Our sales of books and merchandise were beyond our expectations and the engagement and interaction with comic con audiences were incredible. Since Comic-Con was a ticketed event, we also organized a free meet-up for the Indian community, through an ardent ACK NRI fan in Irvine, Orange County. At this event, we conducted a storytelling session, an art workshop, a quiz, and sold books and merch to nearly 1000 members of the Indian community.”

Are Kids Reading Comic Books?

The comic book industry was valued at $14.69 billion in 2021 by Fortune Business and was projected to reach $21.37 billion by 2029. Moreover, the popular Japanese art style, manga, which churns out comics to be consumed worldwide, has an industry that keeps on growing—it reached $24.8 billion globally in 2021 and is projected to grow at a 9.7% CAGR.

When asked if kids today are reading comic books in India, Vyas said, “It is an urban myth that today's kids are not reading. Our sales of printed books have been growing by nearly 30-40 percent YoY. We printed nearly 4 million copies in FY 23-24. If we are selling 4 million copies and not taking a single copy back, surely, they are being read. In addition, our digital apps have a very sizable paid subscriber base. The digital readership is typically 10x of physical readership.”

Elaborating on the same, Vyas says, “Contrary to popular opinion, it is actually quite a good experience to read a comic on a tablet, iPad, or as a family on a TV screen. The convenience of having the entire library of content in one place makes the experience truly delightful and encourages children to read more and more.”

Comic Characters X Gaming

According to a recent report by marketing firm MoEngage, mobile gaming in India is expected to reach $8.6 billion by the end of 2027, owing to increased smartphone penetration, lower-cost smartphones, and more affordable data plans. The report also estimated that the current valuation of the Indian gaming industry stands at $2.6 billion.

In light of the burgeoning gaming industry in India, Tinkle Comics is also exploring avenues for interactive entertainment, with initiatives like casual mobile games and partnerships for board games and video game adaptations. These strategic moves reflect Tinkle Comics' adaptability and commitment to engaging audiences across diverse mediums.

Vyas says, “We do have some casual mobile games like Word Play with Suppandi. In addition, we have licensed our IPs to partners like Jigsaw Nation, Squarace Games, and Equator games to make jigsaw puzzles and board games. Additionally, we are also official distributors of games such as Lanka, Yuddh Bhumi, Vallamkali, and Indus. We are in the midst of negotiations to build other video games too, and we will share some exciting news on this front soon.”

Digital Piracy a Major Challenge

The data released by the UK-based piracy tracking company MUSO shows the publishing category taking the second place with 63.6 billion piracy visits, followed by 29.6 billion film piracy visits. TV piracy remains the most popular among consumers, however, accounting for almost half of all piracy traffic with 103.9 billion visits in 2023.

The United States is in the lead as the main source of traffic to manga sites. With 13 percent of all visits, it leaves all other countries, including Japan, trailing behind.

Kakao Entertainment's Illegal Distribution Response Team (also known as P.CoK) released their fourth whitepaper focusing on their work combating digital piracy. P.CoK (a name inspired by the eyes on a peacock's feathers) According to P.CoK's white paper, between June and December 2023, the group has blocked approximately 208 million "instances of illegal content."

Talking about the challenges faced by the comics industry in India, Vyas said, “Digital piracy is a major challenge that directly impacts our revenues. However, other challenges that the comics industry face include the death of a vibrant network of physical bookstores which has severely impacted distribution and availability of physical comic books.”

 Vyas further said, “Selling through D2C channels is challenging from a profitability perspective, given the exorbitant (and ever-growing) performance marketing costs required to reach audiences online. Another challenge that we face today is high costs of 4-color printing combined with the lower propensity to spend on Indian comic books affects not just the publisher but every channel member- be it writer, artist, publisher, distributor, wholesaler, or bookseller.”

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